The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.
Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term races is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a wide variety of variations, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. These groups, though each possesses clearly defined features, are all comprised of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family who descended from the same parents.
If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a very clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major races of the world today. That answer is found in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been described as the table of nations because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world. Genesis 11 is the account of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. That punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to the settle in lands all across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 seem to mark the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced produced people groups who developed their own culture and nations. The combinations of these events caused the formation of the ethnicities we see today.